Live 3D demo shows some potential

December 10, 2008 by Dave Haynes

This is a live 3D holographic thing (see video here, my embed video function seems to be on strike) that has some potential, though well down the road. Unlike a lot of the 3D stuff I have seen, which is about as compelling as Dr. Tongue’s 3D Monster Chiller Horror Theater, this might have some interesting application as it gets refined for environments such as retail.

Staff in places like electronics stores are scrapping all day with know-it-alls who poke at them with highly technical questions they can’t possibly be trained on. Imagine if there was a way to have a remote sales engineer who could be at a central site but tapped by multiple stores or even chains, to give high level product information.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Paul Debevec, a research associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, has helped develop a holographic videoconferencing system just like the fictional one depicted in recent Star Wars films. He demonstrated the science-fiction inspired system — which uses off-the-shelf video projectors and a fast-spinning mirror to create the illusion of a 3-D image — at the Army Science Conference this week.

In Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, Yoda virtually attends Jedi council meetings by beaming a holographic image of himself to the meeting room. Everyone in the council chamber can see, in real time, when the Jedi master is displeased as he speaks. Similarly, Mr. Debevec says that professors who are traveling for work will now be able to hold meetings with graduate students back on their campus via hologram.

Other than looking extremely cool, what’s the point? Mr. Debevec argues that the holographic system is better than a phone call or a traditional videoconference because users are able to make eye contact, and viewers can tell which way the holographic caller is looking. “It helps people know whose turn it is to speak and helps people know who’s paying attention,” he said. “Video chats are gaining in popularity, but you don’t usually get accurate eye contact.”

During the conference, Mr. Debevec talked with a holographic image of a colleague who was broadcasting from across a convention hall as part of his demonstration.

The design, as it now stands, looks very clunky and lab-like … but assuming it gets refined over time, maybe there’s something there.

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